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Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

The building boom for places we go to have fun is over: Spending has slumped since the pandemic hit — and the drop-off isn’t letting up, per data out this morning.

  • This category is broad: It includes everything from bowling alleys to racetracks to theme parks. But they're all places people gather, typically for hobbies.

Why it matters: Construction spending on these venues soared in the years leading up to the pandemic, with a ton of new places like sporting arenas and casinos springing up. Now the big question is how many more of these types of facilities are necessary if COVID-19 shifted our habits.

  • “The pandemic impacted things like fitness center construction,” says Anirban Basu, an economist at Associated Builders and Contractors, an industry trade group.
  • Working out at home might be here to stay, Basu says — leading to questions about whether there's enough demand to warrant new facilities.

Other big reasons for the slowdown: The shortage of materials has resulted in higher costs, and workers are hard to find. That’s led to a pullback in all types of construction projects.

The bottom line: Spending to build places that bring us joy has slowed, but the money hasn’t stopped flowing entirely. And some projects put on ice are restarting.

  • After a pandemic-induced pause, construction restarted earlier this year on Universal’s first new theme park in 20 years.

Go deeper

Movie theaters go out of style

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Vaccination rates are going up, people are going out to restaurants again — although the new COVID variant may get in the way — but they still aren't rushing back to the movies.

By the numbers: Some 49% of pre-pandemic moviegoers are no longer hitting theaters, according to a study from the film research company The Quorum, as reported by the New York Times.

1 hour ago - Health

Vaccine mandates lose steam in the U.S. while Europe doubles down

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

European countries are doubling down on pressure campaigns to get people vaccinated just as Republicans continue to wage war — often successfully — against vaccine mandates in the U.S.

Why it matters: The starkly different approaches create a sharp contrast between the regions' approaches to vaccination, even as the Omicron variant rapidly spreads around the world.

2 hours ago - World

Two years of COVID-19

Expand chart
Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Axios Visuals

Two years ago Wednesday, the first case of a mysterious new respiratory disease was discovered in Wuhan, China. Now, the Omicron variant has deepened concerns about just how much longer the coronavirus pandemic will last.

The big picture: More than 5 million people have died since that first case. Most people on earth have lived through some form of lockdown. 54% of the global population has had at least one vaccination, though the shots have been distributed unevenly.